September 30, 2010, 5:17 PM

ATG ups speed and flexibility in its new e-commerce platform

ATG's largest upgrade in 10 years, Commerce 10 is a more formidable competitor to IBM.

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Already a leading e-commerce technology platform popular with many large online retailers, Art Technology Group Inc. released a major platform upgrade this week designed to support faster site performance, more effective merchandising and easier management of multiple web sites. It also aims to make it easier for retailer clients to sell through a variety of channels, including the web, bricks-and-mortar stores and mobile commerce.

ATG, in the largest upgrade to its e-commerce technology platform in a decade, says its new ATG Commerce 10 also is designed to make it easier for retailers to make personalized offers to shoppers across all retailing channels without having to rely heavily on corporate I.T. departments. “We are executing on our ‘Commerce Anywhere’ vision, making it easier than ever for any company to deliver a personalized shopping and buying experience optimized for mobile devices, social media, and cross-channel interactions,” CEO Bob Burke says.

Analysts say the company is on the right track for providing a better e-commerce technology environment. “Long in development, Commerce 10 marks an important step for ATG as it maintains a best-of-breed platform, and should allow the company to compete successfully against well capitalize alternatives—e.g., IBM,” stock analysts Colin Sebastian and Gregor Schauer of Lazard Capital Markets wrote in a report on ATG this week. “We believe that Commerce 10 will help strengthen ATG’s pipeline to new potential customers.”

ATG says the upgraded technology platform allows client organizations to “spend less time managing ongoing tasks, such as adding new products or altering prices, and more time responding to market shifts, innovating, and creating competitive advantages for their brands via personalization and other powerful merchandising strategies.” The company also says Commerce 10 provides an improved promotions engine and merchandising features that enable merchants to rapidly launch and manage promotions with merchandising templates.

Commerce 10 also supports the development of retailing features such as deal-of-the-day offers, members-only shopping clubs, and microsites for merchandising particular product categories and brands, ATG says. ATG’s platform architecture also enables retailers to share web content and software resources, including shopping carts, product catalogs and promotional displays, across multiple web sites and retail channels, the company adds.

The upgraded platform also includes improvements to site search administration, data caching and product catalog management to provide for faster page and data downloads, ATG says.

 “With this release, ATG is delivering significant enhancements that further support our multichannel, multi-brand, and international business needs,” says Stephen Carvelli, director of e-commerce, customer relationship management and store technology for apparel retailer and ATG client Chico’s FAS. “We are especially excited about the new ATG merchandising application, which gives even more power to merchants and web site content producers.”

Brian Walker, an e-commerce technology analyst at Forrester Research Inc., says ATG Commerce 10’s strengths include faster technology deployment, improved web site performance, and an enhanced ability to support merchandising across multiple retailing platforms, including mobile commerce as well as web sites. “The most significant improvements with ATG Commerce 10 are in the rebuild of many of the core business and merchandising management tools, and in reducing the time and cost for clients to get their e-commerce storefronts up and running on ATG,” he says.

Although ATG’s upgraded technology platform is  better suited to support operations that extend beyond the e-commerce site than ATG’s previous offerings, full multichannel capabilities—including in-store operations that can show cross-channel customer purchasing history in point-of-sale systems—still need extra work, Walker says. “ATG has made improvements in the ability to run the web, call center, and mobile businesses together on its technology platform, but in-store multichannel capabilities are still largely going to be customizations leveraging ATG’s technology toolkit.”

Kelly O’Neill, ATG’s director of industry marketing, says retailers on Commerce 10 will need to customize it if they want to have access to information such as cross-channel customer purchasing data in store point-of-sale systems, which would require installing the ATG e-commerce system as the POS system’s order processing application. POS systems also typically include other applications, such as work schedules, that would have to be kept separate as part of the customization, she adds.

But ATG already supports the ability for retailers to access their Commerce 10 e-commerce site from a separate window on their POS terminals as well as through mobile devices. The mobile feature that lets store employees assist shoppers in checking past orders and available inventory for placing orders without making shoppers wait in the line for the POS counter, Kelly says.

In addition, the company is also making available a new mobile app that lets employees check available inventory, current promotions and customer records from an iPod Touch.

“We’ve been watching commerce become more multichannel, so we’ll be introducing more tools to support multichannel retailing,” O’Neill says.


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